Tagines, like curries, are a staple. A tagine is a slow-cooked stew hailing from Morocco. If you are lucky enough to have the kitchen space, they are to be cooked in a special clay casserole dish that acts like a mini-convection oven. The dome of the lid traps the steam and recirculates it within the dish for slow-roasted casserole perfection. I am limited in my galley kitchen however, and make due with a stock pot. Still delicious and worth making every time!
Moroccan tagines are sweeter than Indian curries, and generally less spicy. They often feature cinnamon with some citrus notes, adding a surprise twist to the cumin/coriander/turmeric “base” curry spice mix. Raisins or other dried fruit such as apricots (especially when the citrus is orange) are also common in the stew. Generally served with fancy (or standard) couscous, they are a filling meal that will transform your kitchen to a market in Casablanca. This particluar tagine is my base recipe, however there are a multitude of variations of this recipe that can be made based on what you have on hand. Components that you must have to consider it a tagine include: a meaty vegetable such as eggplant, a legume, a tomato-based sauce, and a spice combination that includes cinnamon and orange juice or lemon juice. Purists would also insist that rasins need to be added, but as I hate raisins I leave those out – I leave that decision to your disgretion.
Tagines are a nice change of pace from the Indian curries, but if you want an exotic stew and can’t decide on which curry to make, split the difference and slurp up a hearty warming tagine!
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, quartered and sliced thin
1 cup carrots, sliced into ½” pieces on the bias
1-2 serrano chilis seeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground coriander
5 cups water, vegetable broth, or a combination
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
several dashes pepper
1 cup dry red lentils
1 zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise and chopped into ¼” pieces
1 eggplant, cubed into ¼” cubes or sliced into quarter moons (like zucchini)
1 cup green beans, cut into 1” pieces
2 cups grape tomatoes
½ cup raisins (I never add raisins because I dislike them, but traditional tagines include them!)
1 tsp salt
1 bunch spinach, torn into pieces½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
½ cup fresh mint, chopped
3-4 tbsp. lemon juice, or juice of one orange
lemon wedges to serve
Legumes: Red lentils give the stew a creamy base, but green lentils or chickpeas are also delicious. Or a combination of all! You want to end up with ~3 cups cooked legumes when you are done.
Vegetables: Green beans, sugar snap peas, asparagus, grape tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, butternut squash, and bell pepper would all be fantastic. For a double-tomato broth, add 1 (28oz.) can whole or diced tomatoes to stew with liquid.
Greens: Spinach, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens …
1) In large stockpot, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent
2) Add carrots and chili and sauté ~3min.
3) Add garlic and ginger, sauté ~2min.
4) Add cumin, turmeric, and coriander. Stir and add water/vegetable broth, tomato paste, cinnamon, bay leaves, pepper, and lentils. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer uncovered for 20min.
5) Add all veggies except greens, raisins, and salt. Simmer 15min.
6) Add the greens, cilantro, and mint. If all the greens don’t fit in the pot, add in batches and stir until greens are wilted.
7) When all greens are wilted, turn heat off, stir in lemon juice, and let sit for 10min (or as long as you can last!)
8) Serve over couscous, tabouli, or with some flatbread.
Update: Winter Tagine
During the winter months, I found myself craving this savoury tagine. Thus, I adjusted the vegetables accordingly. Butternut squash, carrots, bell pepper, and frozen spinach worked wonderfully in this tomato-based tagine. I used chickpeas instead of lentils for the mouth feel, and was completly satisfied with this warm, hearty stew!